Bill Furney’s novel about women pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny.

To read about Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree activities, click here

By Connie Leinbach

North Carolina author Bill Furney wants to give pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny their due.

The two women made history for behaving badly, Furney says, and their story prompted him to write a historical novel “Black Hearts White Bones.”

Furney will bring copies of his book and be part of the Brigands Bazaar on Saturday during Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree on Ocracoke, which begins Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon. (Brigands Bazaar will also be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday.) 

“It’s a mix—part love story, revenge, part mystery wrapped around the history,” he said in an interview. “If you like the television show ‘Black Sails,’ you’ll like my book.”

The women were real pirates and we know almost nothing about them, Furney said.

The two sailed with Calico Jack Rackham, another infamous pirate, who was Anne Bonny’s lover, Furney says. History reports that the three were captured in 1719 and taken to a prison in Spanish Town, Jamaica, and while there, Mary Read died of “the fever.”

There’s no information about Bonny’s fate after that except “part fantasy, part myth,” he says.

“I was fascinated about the absence of information about them,” Furney says about the women.  A credible theory, he says, is that Anne Bonny’s father ransomed her out of prison, leaving Mary Read.

 And that’s where his story picks up—with Mary Read not actually dying but faking her death, escaping (a la Alexander Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo”) and seeking revenge on Bonny, who’d left her to die.

“The story explains why Anne Bonny did what she did,” he says. “I weave lot of the history and mythology into the story.”

While legends of the Golden Age of Piracy, which lasted from 1650 to 1730, have been steeped in romance through the centuries, his tale is “a serious look at two badass women and is not a bodice ripper.”

The reality is that women suffered a bad lot before modern times, he said. Hardly being allowed to work except for menial tasks, women had very few survival options other than marrying well.

“Mary Read and Anne Bonny were complete exceptions to the reality,” Furney says. “The only reason we know about them is they didn’t behave well.”

An eastern North Carolina native born in Washington, Beaufort County—”an area of the world that celebrates its pirate history with great relish,” he says in his author’s notes—Furney is a former journalist and retired information officer with the state public health department.

“I was pretty familiar with pirate lore, but not Mary Read and Anne Bonny,” he said about growing up. “If they’re mentioned at all (in the lore), they’re mentioned in passing.

A student of history, Furney said he did three hours of research for every hour of writing and visited “Charles Town,” South Carolina, as Charleston was known then, one of the book’s settings.

“It was the only fortified English colony in North America, at the time, and it had an actual wall,” he said, noting that only remnants of that wall remain today.

The wall plays large in the story as the pirates sneak into the city—something that was very difficult to do back then.

While the two women’s story takes place after the demise of Blackbeard in 1718, Blackbeard’s treasure is a theme that runs through “Black Hearts White Bones.”

Although there’s no record of Read and Bonny ever having been to Ocracoke, they were definitely in the New Bern area.

Furney has self-published “Black Hearts White Bones.”  It is available on Ocracoke at Books to be Red and on Amazon Kindle and

Author Bill Furney






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  1. That’s one of the many theories and/or myths, Donnamarie. No one really knows what happend to Anne Bonny. Some say she ended up in New Orleans. Some say she died in Jamaica. We just don’t know…which is part of what made their story so compelling to me. History should have treated these two women better, even in their notoriety.

  2. Hmmmm…… It was my understanding that Anne’s dad came and got her out of the pokey, married her off (again) to a land owner, and she’s buried in Virginia…..

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